Thursday, January 21, 2016

Finding the Middle Ground

I realized this week that the problem with all parenting books is that they assume that one size fits all. That all parents are starting from the same place, that their kids all have the same temperament, and that all parents want to parent in the same way. While it's obvious that not all parents and children are the same, I figured that regardless, if there was a parenting method that worked, all parents should try to parent that way. I have no evidence that there is one particular parenting method that works for every parent and every child even some of the time, let alone all the time, but even if there were, it can't be approached in the same way by every parent.

In the Peace Circle this month, the theme is "bendy." I have taken e-courses on boundaries and it still took a few weeks for me to realize that being flexible has to do with boundaries. Some of the mamas are too rigid. The problem with being too rigid with your boundaries is that as soon as you collide with someone else's wants and needs-which is guaranteed to happen when you become a parent- you will break. The other side of the coin (and this is where I find myself) are the mamas who are too bendy. While one might think that being flexible is a good thing, the other extreme has a tendency to bend so much that they also break.

If I had not already worked with the idea of boundaries, I might look at the theme of bendy and think that being more flexible will help me, and end up breaking myself in the process. Personally, I need to learn how to set limits and be less bendy. However, if someone who is not bendy at all took a course in setting limits, they would not benefit from it either.

Enjoy this picture of a dog
I've never read anywhere about considering which end of the authoritarian-permissive spectrum you're on before making adjustments to your parenting style. The problem is that people have a tendency to avoid the middle ground and stick to their extremes. Authoritarian parents believe that you are either strict and make your kids tow the line, or you are permissive and indulgent. Permissive parents believe that either you have a good relationship with your child, or you are punitive and harsh. It creates a false dichotomy between setting limits and having a good relationship with your child, as if you cannot do both (hint: you can). Parents on one end have difficulty setting limits, and parents on the other end have difficulty setting limits while maintaining their relationship with their child. 

If you've been having difficulties setting limits with your child, don't feel you need to change your personality to be more harsh. Conversely, if you want to be less punitive with your child, you don't need to become all sunshine and rainbows and let your kid get away with things. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to parenting, there is a happy middle ground where parents from both ends of the spectrum can meet. Getting there, however, will depend on which end of the spectrum you're coming from.

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